Herot is bustling as the town makes preparations for the Gathering at which the next ruler of the Shieldlands will be elected; but the pressure mounts to catch the killer before another victim is claimed. Rheda, Slean and Abrecan ride out to stall the other tribal leaders and prevent a panic, whilst Beowulf begins his search with Koll, the deputy Reeve. Their enquiries lead them from the working heart of Herot, to the smelting pits, to the upper echelons of the Golden Hall. The discoveries they unravel shock them to the core. Meanwhile, a member of Rheda’s riding party fails to return to Herot, signalling further danger may be in their midst.